The parliament of Victoria, Australia, is about to conclude the process of the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill.
The law has been approved by both the Lower House and the Legislative Council of the Victorian parliament and could be soon ready to be implemented.
Any practice that aims to “change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity” will now be illegal.
According to Australian evangelical magazine Eternity News, this ban includes “prayer conversations suggesting change, and counselling when targeted at an individual”.
Melbourne, the State’s capital, is known for being Australia’s region with a strongest support for LGBT movements – as seen in the Pride Marches and other demonstrations in the last years.
The law becomes a real challenge to churches that hold to a traditional and biblical view of sexuality. Jail sentences up to ten years and large fines can be imposed by courts if there is a perception that a ‘conversion’ practice has caused injuries to a LGBT person.
According to the analysis of Eternity News, the law distinguishes between general teaching and personal counselling. “Sermons and general discussion of same-sex and gender issues which might take a conservative line” would not be prosecuted but “activities which are directed at an individual, on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and have the aim to change or supress that person’s identity” would.
The law will not come into effect right away, but there will be one-year period in which the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission will lead consultations to clarify the details of how the law would be applied in different scenarios.
Reactions of evangelicals
Several church denominations in Victoria have expressed their concern about the law.
The Baptist Union of Victoria, for example, asked that “the bill should permit communication of religious beliefs to all people and permit religious counselling, pastoral care and prayer for people over 16 with informed consent and the right to leave”.
In December, the Victorian Church Leaders network wrote in a letter to the Attorney General expressing concern over the “lack of clear definitions and clear articulation of what is or is not considered a harmful or suppressive practice has led to a significant level of concern as to the administration of the Act”.
A pastor who has campaigned against the law said on social media: “Under this Act, if Jesus shared his views with an individual or prayed with someone who came to him because they were struggling with their sexual or gender identity, Jesus could face criminal charges and time in prison. (…) Of course Jesus’ view, which upholds the teaching of the Bible, form the beliefs that Christians carry today and that shape our lives”.
In contrast, theologically liberal and LGBT-friendly “churches” have supported the new law and asked that other Australian states “follow the example of Victoria” by passing similar laws.
According to the John Sandeman, Editor-in-chief of Eternity News, “Christians in Victoria who affirm the traditional teachings of the Bible will be on official notice that they are out of step with society”.
HD Editor’s Note:
Ken Ham wrote in his article, “Conversion Therapy Bans Are a ‘Trojan Horse’,” that these bans are a direct assault on Christians, and have a targeted aim to outlaw Biblical preaching and sharing the Gospel message of repentance:
“Conversion therapy bans” have been popping up throughout the West. Those pushing these bills claim they’re trying to protect people, often specifically children and teens who identify as LGBT, from supposed abusive practices (which do sometimes make up certain so-called “conversion therapies”). But what are these bans really all about?
Well, for years, conservative politicians and Christian commentators (including me) have been saying these “conversion therapy bans” are “Trojan horses” that pave the way for the bridling of free speech and the criminalization of those who believe and act on biblical principles. You see, LGBT activists claim that if you don’t fully embrace, support, and celebrate an LGBT lifestyle or identity, then that’s hate speech and harming someone because that person is more likely to commit suicide since you did not affirm them. In their minds and by their flawed logic, those who hold to the biblical belief that an LGBT identity and lifestyle are sinful are hurting other people and driving them to suicide; therefore such people (Christians specifically) don’t deserve to be able to speak their views. Many politicians are viewing this matter now as a civil rights issue—but it’s not. It’s a moral issue.
The warning that these bans are Trojan horses isn’t a fallacious slippery slope argument.
Religious leaders—those who would preach, teach, and counsel from God’s Word—are called out here as being part of these “conversion therapies” and that legislation should make them “think twice” before speaking the truth from God’s Word on sexual issues. It’s an outright assault on freedom of religion and speech and, above all, on biblical truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ (the only message that truly delivers someone from their slavery to a sinful identity, if they will repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ).
Van Maren’s article goes on to quote from Steve Chalke, a pastor who has utterly rejected the clear teachings of Scripture on sexuality as well as the gospel, who argues that “even traditionally Christian expressions of support for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction and the offer of prayers [is] ‘psychologically abusive,’ and stated that Christian teaching on sexuality that taught people ‘that their desires are ‘sinful’’ is dangerous because it ‘only contributes to the already high levels of mental health issues reported among people from the LGBT+ community.’”
In this “pastor’s” view, sharing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the biblical truth that God has created us male and female and created marriage to be between one man and one woman is abusive and dangerous. What’s abusive and dangerous is what Chalke and others do: twisting God’s Word to scratch itching ears and lull people into complacency in their sin so they don’t see their need of a Savior.
As believers, we must be prepared to continue sharing biblical truth regardless of what the culture around us says or threatens. Teaching God’s Word is not abusive or dangerous—the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It is the gospel and the truth of God’s Word, with the power of the Holy Spirit, that free us from our slavery to sin (Romans 6:6) and makes us a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The time is coming when speaking biblical truth regarding sexuality will be illegal. But we must love people enough to continue to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3), making disciples (Matthew 28:19), as we do the King’s business until he returns (Luke 19:13). Are we courageous enough to boldly state as Peter and the apostles did: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)?